Basics of composition

Basics of composition - what is composition and how to understand it. We will try to touch on as many aspects of the issue of composition as possible in decorative, applied and visual art. We are talking about composition in the figure here - composition in the Drawing.

Imagine that in front of you is a sheet plane that is absolutely not filled with any image elements. Simply put, a clean sheet. How is it perceived by us? Naturally, the sheet plane does not carry any information, it is perceived by us as empty, unfilled, not organized. But! One has only to apply any stain, or line to it, and this plane begins to come to life. This means that our graphic elements, any spot, line, stroke, enter into spatial connection with it, forming some kind of semantic link. Simply put, the plane and any element on it begin to interact, engage in dialogue among themselves, and begin to “tell” us about something.

So we get the most primitive composition, which is even hard to call one, but that is already it.

Farther. We have one universal tool granted to us by nature, these are our eyes, our eyesight. So, our eye sees and perceives the world around us in proportions and proportions. What does it mean? Our vision is able to feel harmony, and that which is not harmonious. Our eye is able to find the difference between the mismatch of the sizes of individual parts and the whole, or vice versa, to see full compliance. Vision can sense combinations of colors that do not irritate the eye, or vice versa - can be completely disharmonious. I will say more, our natural instinct from the very beginning, whether you want it or not, strives for a sense of harmony in everything. And subconsciously obliges by sensation to compose objects and their parts so that not a single part of the composition is alien or disproportionate. It is only necessary to learn to listen to your feelings and understand how to achieve harmony, that is, to make a good composition. Any.

Move on. Take some form, for example, a circle and try to place it in different places on the sheet plane. We can see, feel, that in some cases it will occupy a more stable position, in others it will be unstable. Figure on the left: see how our vision works - it would seem that the most stable place for a circle is the coincidence of its center with the geometric center of the sheet plane (drawing the diagonal lines from corner to sheet corner, we get the center of the sheet at the intersection of these lines). However, this is not all. Due to the optical illusion (the eye overestimates the upper part and underestimates the lower part of the plane), the circle is perceived to be slightly shifted down. Feel how the circle is somehow attracted to the base of the square? The circle is not felt distinctly either in the middle or lower, and from this there is a misunderstanding of its position, disharmony is felt. How to achieve harmony? What position should the circle be in so that we perceive it in the plane of the sheet harmoniously? Naturally, it needs to be slightly shifted up. See the figure on the right. Do you feel the steady position of the circle? He takes exactly his place in the square. Thus, our simplest composition will be more harmonious, and therefore more correct.

Understanding: the plane and the object form a kind of conditional spatial connection, which we can correct.


Our plane initially has a certain conditional structure, even if there is not a single element on it yet. The plane can be divided into axis-horizontal, vertical, diagonal. We get the structure - look at the figure on the left. In the center of the plane (geometric center), all the forces of this latent structure are in equilibrium, and the central part of the plane is perceived actively, and the off- center parts are passive. This is how we feel. Such a perception of conditional space, so seeks to find peace in our vision. Understanding is rather arbitrary, but true.

The eye seeks to see harmony in what it observes — it determines the center of our composition, which seems more active for it, everything else is passive. This is what only a study of one clean sheet plane can give us. Moreover, this is what only the study of one square-shaped sheet plane can give us. But the principle is the same. This is what concerns the structure of the sheet plane.

But this would be quite insufficient to divide the plane or make a composition of one element on a sheet. This is boring and no one needs, neither you nor the viewer. There is always more, more diverse and much more interesting.

Now let's try to compose another composition, but with several participants. See the picture on the left. What do we see, what do we feel? And we feel that our composition is not harmonious, because the individual parts of it are not balanced. Items are strongly shifted to the left, leaving empty, unnecessary, unused space in the composition on the right. And the eye always strives to balance everything and achieve harmony. What do we need to do here? Naturally, to balance the parts of the composition so that they harmoniously make up one large composition and are part of one whole. It is necessary to make our eyesight comfortable.

Look at the picture on the right. It feels more harmonious, doesn't it? I think yes. What does it mean? In the visual perception of the elements and the sheet plane and in the analysis of their relationships: the influence of the internal forces of the plane structure on the behavior of the graphic elements is felt. What does it mean? Our elements participating in the composition interact with the conditional diagonal, vertical and horizontal axes of the plane. We have achieved a stable visual balance of all components of the composition relative to the geometric center. Even if not a single figure here is in the middle, they balance each other, forming together the center where the vision expects it, and therefore looking at this drawing is more comfortable than the previous one.

And if you add a few more elements, then in this case they should be slightly weaker in size or tone (or color) and in a certain place, so as not to visually knock down the geometric center of the composition, otherwise you will have to change the arrangement of the elements in order to achieve harmony again, that is, harmonious perception. This is with regard to the concept of the geometric center of composition, which we have now introduced into the study.

You always need to strive for a stable visual balance of all components of the composition in its various directions - up and down, right and left, diagonally. And the composition should be harmonious from any position, in any turn, turn your composition upside down, or 90 degrees, it should also be pleasantly visible, without any hint of discomfort. And it’s easier to assume that the geometric center of the composition is located at the intersection of diagonal lines or slightly higher, in this place the eyes after viewing the composition itself, whatever it is, ultimately stops and finds “rest”, calms down exactly in this place. even if there is no object on it. This is a conditional place. And a harmonious composition is one when it is no longer required to either introduce new elements or remove any of it. All the actors involved in the integral composition are subordinated to one general idea.

Basics of composition - static equilibrium and dynamic equilibrium

The composition should be harmonious and its individual sections should be balanced. We step further and analyze the following concepts:

Static balance and dynamic balance. These are ways to balance the composition, ways to create harmony. The methods are different, as they affect our eyes in different ways. Let's say we have two compositions. We look at the picture on the left: what do we have? We have a composition in which circle and stripes participate. This shows the static balance of a circle and stripes. How is it achieved? Firstly, if you look at the hidden structure of the composition sheet, you can understand that it is built primarily on the horizontal and vertical axes. More than static. Secondly: static elements — a circle and stripes — are used, the circle is balanced by stripes and does not fly out of the plane and the conditional geometric visual center is located at the intersection of the diagonals, and the composition can be viewed from all sides, without giving rise to identification of disharmony.

Now look at the picture on the right. We see a dynamic balance of several semicircles and circles with the highlight of the dominant color. How is dynamic equilibrium achieved? If you look at the hidden structure of the sheet, then in addition to the horizontal and vertical axes of the composition, you can clearly see the use of the diagonal axis. Her presence, use, gives out a red circle, which in this composition is a dominant, dominant spot, the area that the eye pays attention to in the first place. We introduce the concept of compositional center.

Composition Center. Dominant

The compositional center, the dominant, as it is understood: in the composition on the left there is a certain compositional center, or the dominant, which is the plot of the composition and to which all other elements obey. More can be said: all other elements enhance the significance of the dominant and “play along” with it.

We have the main acting dominant person and secondary elements. Minor elements may also be separated in importance. More significant are accents, and less significant are secondary elements. Their significance is determined only by the content of the story, the plot of the composition, and so all elements of the composition are important and should be subordinated to each other, "twisted" into one whole.

The composition center depends on:

1. Its magnitude and the magnitude of the remaining elements.

2. Positions on the plane.

3. The shape of the element, which differs from the shape of other elements.

4. The texture of the item, which is different from the texture of other elements.

5. Colors. By applying a contrast (opposite color) to the color of the secondary elements (bright color in a neutral environment, and vice versa, or chromatic color among achromatic, or warm color with the general cold gamut of secondary elements, or dark color among light ...

6. Development. The main element, the dominant, is more elaborate than the secondary ones.

Compositional and geometric centers of composition

Let's continue ... This dominant, an eye-catching active element, is not located at all in the center of the leaf, but its weight and activity is supported by many secondary elements located diagonally further, opposite this dominant. If you draw another diagonal, then on both sides of it the "weight" of the composition will be conditionally the same. The composition is balanced both vertically and horizontally and diagonally. Elements that are different in activity from the previous composition are used — they are more actively arranged and more active in shape. Although they are located elementarily, the compositional structure is simple along a conventional grid, but besides this, the composition has a dynamic balance, as it leads the viewer along a certain path.

Note: the composition on the right hasn’t been created using paints on paper, but I really liked it, and essentially, by and large, this does not change. It is also a composition. We continue ...

You say, where is the geometric center of the composition? I answer: the geometric center of the composition is where it should be. Initially, it may seem that it is located where the dominant is located. But the dominant is rather an accent, the beginning of composition, that is, a compositional center. Nevertheless, we do not forget that there is also a hidden structure of the composition, the geometric center of which is located as in the composition on the left. The viewer turns his first glance at the compositional center, the dominant, but after considering it, and then after reviewing the whole composition, your eye still stopped at the geometric center, right? Check for yourself, track your feelings. He found there "comfort", the most comfortable place. From time to time, he again considers the composition, paying attention to the dominant, but then again calms down in the geometric center. Therefore, such an equilibrium is called dynamic, it brings in movement — visual attention is not scattered evenly throughout the composition, but follows a certain course created by the artist. Your eye will find movement in the compositional center, but cannot calm down there. And precisely with the successful construction of the composition, namely, the correct use of the geometric center, it is harmoniously visible from any turn. And the compositional center - from it begins to conduct dialogue with the viewer composition, this is the section of the composition that allows you to control the viewer's attention and direct it in the right direction.

Static composition and dynamic composition

Here we come to the following terms that we need to consider. These terms differ in meaning from static and dynamic equilibrium, meaning: you can balance any composition in nature in different ways. So ... What is a static composition? This is the state of the composition in which the balanced elements as a whole give the impression of its steady immobility.

1. A composition based on which you can visually clearly observe the use of a hidden sheet structure for building. In a static composition, there is a conditional construction order.

2. Items for a static composition are selected closer in shape, weight, texture.

3. There is some softness in the tonal solution.

4. The color scheme is based on the nuances - close colors.

A dynamic composition, respectively, can be built in the opposite way. This is the state of the composition in which the elements balanced among themselves give the impression of its movement and internal dynamics.

I repeat: but, whatever the composition, you should always strive for a stable visual balance of all components of the composition in its various directions - up and down, right and left, diagonally.

And the composition should be harmonious from any position, in any turn, turn your composition upside down, or 90 degrees, with the general masses and color / tonal spots, it should also be pleasantly visible, without any hint of discomfort.

Basics of composition - exercises

Additional exercises can be performed with gouache, like an application, with colored pencils and other materials that your soul wishes to work with. You can perform it from the exercise that you find most easy or interesting, and to the most difficult.

1. Balance on a square plane a few simple in shape elements. Following the same principle, perform the composition of a simple landscape motif.

2. From simple stylized motifs of natural forms, make a sketch of a closed composition (not beyond the scope of the picture), enclosed in a sheet format. Closed composition - the action is twisted only in the space that you use, complete completeness. The compositions have a move in a circle.

3. Organize several triangles and circles according to the principle of dynamic composition (asymmetric arrangement of figures on the plane), varying the color, lightness of the figures and the background.

4. Applying the principle of dividing the elements of the composition, balance in a rectangular format several figures of different configurations. According to this principle, perform a simple composition on an arbitrary topic.

5. From simple stylized motifs of natural forms, using the principle of dividing elements, make a sketch of an open composition. An open composition is a composition that can be developed further, in breadth and in height.

6. Divide the sheet plane into a conditional structure according to the sensation and compose a composition on its basis: the solution is black and white.

Expressive means of composition

The expressive means of composition in decorative and applied art include line, point, spot, color, texture ... These means are at the same time elements of the composition. Based on the goals and objectives and given the capabilities of a certain material, the artist uses the necessary expressive means.

Line is the main form-generating element that conveys most accurately the nature of the outlines of any shape. The line performs a dual function, being both a means of image and a means of expression.

There are three types of lines:

Straight: vertical, horizontal, inclined
Curves: Circles, Arcs
Curves with a variable radius of curvature: parabolas, hyperbolas and their segments.

The expressiveness of the associative perception of lines depends on the nature of their style, tonal and color sound.

The lines transmit:

Vertical - aspiration up

Inclined - instability, fall

Broken - variable motion

Wavy - uniform smooth movement, swing

Spiral - slow rotational motion, accelerating toward the center

Round - closed movement

Oval - the striving of the form to tricks.

Thick lines protrude forward, while thin lines retreat deep into the plane. Performing sketches of the composition, create combinations of certain lines, spots, stimulating the manifestation of its plastic and color properties.

The point, as one of the expressive means, is widely used in many works of decorative and applied art. It helps to identify the texture of the image, the transfer of conditional space.

The spot is used in the rhythmic organization of non-graphic ornamental motifs. Spots of various configurations, organized in a specific composition, acquire artistic expressiveness and, emotionally affecting the viewer, cause him a corresponding mood.

Artists in their works often use geometric shapes as graphic elements: circle, square, triangle. Compositions of them can symbolize the movement of time, the rhythms of human life.

The rhythmic organization of ornamental motifs from non-graphic elements (spots of abstract configuration, silhouettes of geometric shapes), combined into compositional structures, becomes a means of artistic expression.

More composition means

1. Subordination: a person in the first second begins to perceive the composition as a silhouette image on a specific background: the area of the silhouette, the outline of the contour line, the degree of compactness, tone, color, surface texture and so on.

2. Symmetry and asymmetry: An effective means of achieving equilibrium of a composition is symmetry — the regular arrangement of form elements relative to a plane, axis, or point.

Asymmetry - the harmony of an asymmetric composition is more complicated, it is based on the use of a combination of various laws of composition. However, compositions based on the principles of asymmetry are in no way inferior to symmetrical in aesthetic value. When working on its spatial structure, the artist combines symmetry and asymmetry, focusing on the dominant regularity (symmetry or asymmetry), uses asymmetry to highlight the main elements of the composition.

3. Proportions are the quantitative relationship of the individual parts of the composition with each other and with the whole, subject to a certain law. A composition organized by proportions is perceived much easier and faster than a visually unorganized mass. Proportions are divided into modular (arithmetic), when the relationship of parts and the whole is composed by repeating a single given size, and geometric, which are based on equal relations and are manifested in a geometric similarity of form divisions.

4. Nuance and contrast: nuance relations are insignificant, slightly pronounced differences in objects in size, pattern, texture, color, and space in the sheet. As a means of composition, the nuance can manifest itself in proportions, rhythm, color and tonal relationships, and plastic.

Contrast: it consists in a pronounced contrast between the elements of the composition. Contrast makes the picture noticeable, distinguishes it from others. Contrasts are distinguished: directions of movement, size, conditional mass, shape, color, light, structure or texture. With a contrast of direction, horizontal is opposed to vertical, tilt from left to right, tilt from right to left. When contrasting size, high is opposed to low, long to short, wide to narrow. With mass contrast, the visually heavy element of the composition is located close to the lung. In contrast, the forms are "rigid", angular forms are opposed to "soft", rounded. With light contrast, light areas of the surface are contrasted with dark.

5. Rhythm is a certain ordering of one-character elements of a composition, created by repeating the elements, their alternation, increase or decrease. The simplest pattern on the basis of which composition is built is the repetition of elements and the intervals between them, called the modular rhythm or metric repetition.

The metric series can be simple, consisting of one element of the form, repeated at equal intervals of space (a), or complex.

A complex metric series consists of groups of identical elements (c) or may include individual elements different from the main elements of the series in shape, size or color (b).

Significantly revitalizes the form of a combination of several metric rows combined into one composition. In general, the metric order expresses static, relative peace.

A certain focus can be given to the composition, creating a dynamic rhythm that is built on the laws of geometric proportions by increasing (decreasing) the size of such elements or on a regular change in the intervals between identical elements of the series (a - e). A more active rhythm is obtained with a simultaneous change in the magnitude of the elements and the intervals between them (e). With an increase in the degree of rhythm, the compositional dynamics of the form intensifies towards the thickening of the rhythmic series.

To create a rhythmic series, you can use a regular change in color intensity. Under metric repetition, the illusion of rhythm is created as a result of a gradual decrease or increase in the color intensity of an element. With changing sizes of elements, color can enhance the rhythm if its intensity grows simultaneously with an increase in the size of elements, or visually balance the

rhythm if the color intensity decreases with an increase in the size of elements. The organizing role of rhythm in the composition depends on the relative size of the elements that make up the rhythmic series, and on their number (to create a series you need to have at least four to five elements).

6. Color. More information on color here is the basics of color science.

Warm bright colors are used to identify the active elements of the composition. Cool colors visually remove them. Color actively affects the human psyche, is able to cause a wide variety of feelings and experiences: to delight and upset, invigorate and oppress. Color acts on a person regardless of his will, since up to 90% of the information we receive through vision. Experimental studies show that the least eye fatigue occurs when observing a color related to the middle part of the spectrum (yellow-green region). The colors of this area give a more stable color perception, and the extreme parts of the spectrum (violet and red) cause the most eye fatigue and irritation of the nervous system.

By the degree of impact on the human psyche, all colors are divided into active and passive. Active colors (red, yellow, orange) act excitingly, accelerate the vital processes of the body. Passive colors (blue, violet) have the opposite effect: they soothe, cause relaxation, reduce performance. Maximum performance is observed under the action of green.

The natural human need is color harmony = submission of all the colors of the composition to a single compositional concept. The whole variety of color harmonies can be divided into nuance combinations based on rapprochement (identity of tonality, lightness or saturation), and contrast combinations based on opposition.

There are seven variations of color harmony based on similarities:

1. the same saturation with different lightness and color tone;

2. The same lightness with different saturation and color tone;

3. The same color tone at different saturation and lightness;

4. the same lightness and saturation with different color tones;

5. the same color tone and lightness at different saturations;

6. the same color tone and saturation at different lightness;

7. The same color tone, lightness and saturation of all elements of the composition.

With a changing tonality, harmony can be achieved by combining two primary and intermediate colors (for example, yellow, green and mustard) or with contrasting tonality. Contrast combinations consist of complementary colors (for example, red with cold green, blue with orange, violet with yellow ...) or triads that include colors equally spaced on the color wheel (for example, yellow, magenta, green-blue, red, green and blue violet). Color harmony is formed not only by combinations of chromatic colors but also saturated chromatic with achromatic (blue and gray, brown and gray, and so on).

More exercises...

1. Sketch a natural motif with a line and a spot.

2. Perform thematic composition using graphic means of expression - line, spot, point

3. From freely placed objects in space, make a balanced composition of a still life without resorting to perspective reductions of objects and spatial plans.

4. Divide the plane of the circle inscribed in the square (black-and-white solution), and make a rapport composition from the divided circles. You can do the same with other geometric shapes.

Artist and composition

Now it will be a question of not how to compose a composition, but rather of the forces that prompt it to be created. These forces are much stronger and more efficient than you thoroughly and investing many hours studying the technical moments of its creation, but stingy to invest at least a bit of your soul in the process. This is a strong motivation, an incentive force. You are an artist, regardless of what knowledge and skills you have and at what stage of development you are. You are an ARTIST, a creative person. Before creating a composition, anyone, you have an idea, think, feel emotions, observe its creation even inside yourself. Some of us dream of it, some of us are affected by this magical process every day, sometimes it just prevents us from living like all ordinary people, because from the very beginning we create it inside ourselves. Any composition, any creation is a sublimation of those sensations and experiences that accompany the artist and grow in him, in his mind. And now, once, at one moment, you understand that here it is, the creation, it can now be born into the world, and you finally understood what you should do. And composition is born. Now nothing can stop your creative process. But by and large, composition is the artist’s mood, thoughts, the very idea that he spills out onto the lifeless plane of a sheet or canvas, forcing them to LIVE with his own, peculiar life, unlike all the others. And even if the artist is not very strong in the study of the laws of composition on a sheet, the creative power of creation is many times stronger, everything else is acquired. Do not be afraid to express your thoughts and feelings. Bold and simple, mysterious and evil, joyful and fantastic .... no one will tell you better about your thoughts, only you yourself.